Corporations Must Evolve Beyond Capitalizing on Sustainability

McDonalds flag

On East Avenue 2/11/18 [Photo: David Kramer]

A graduate of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, George Cassidy Payne is the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International and a SUNY adjunct humanities instructor.

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George Cassidy Payne

In addition to his contributions to Talker of the Town, George’s blogs, essays, letters to the editor, op-eds and poems have been featured in a wide variety of foreign and domestic publications, including USA Today, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Buffalo News, The Toronto Star, The Albany Times Union, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, The Daily Caller, Counterpunch, and more.

Corporations Must Evolve Beyond Capitalizing on Sustainability

McDonald’s has vowed to get rid of all non-recyclable packaging by 2025. Dunkin’ Donuts has followed suit by pledging to use paper coffee cups instead of foam cups by 2020.

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Dunkin’ Donuts on Monroe Avenue in Brighton 2/11/18. Supposedly, by 2020 all styrofoam cups will be replaced with paper. [Photo: David Kramer]

Forgive me for sounding cynical, but don’t these moves feel a bit underwhelming? If McDonald’s wanted to introduce a new variety of bacon cheeseburger, the product would be invented, patented, manufactured, and distributed all over the world in months. It would not take 7 years.

More radical changes are needed than 7 year phase-in plans. How these fast food companies slaughter animals needs to change now. The money spent on advertisements compared with community development needs to change now. Their waste of water needs to change now. The way they treat their employees needs to change now. The toxins they put into their foods needs to change now. The lack of nutritious value in their meals needs to change now. 

In her book, This Changes Everything, the Canadian author Naomi Klein writes:

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The McDonald’s dumpster on Monroe Avenue in the city 2/13/18. Supposedly, by 2025 all McDonald’s products will be recyclable.[Photo: David Kramer]

For a quarter of a century, we have tried the approach of polite incremental change, attempting to bend the physical needs of the planet to our economic model’s need for constant growth and new profit-making opportunities. The results have been disastrous, leaving us all in a great deal more danger than when the experiment began.

Klein goes on to state: “A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions— is telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”

What we don’t need is McDonald’s to turn sustainability into another way for their company to make money. And we certainly do not need to congratulate Dunkin’ Donuts if it is just masking how it really pollutes.

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Scenes from the 2016 World on Your Plate Conference with a Food Justice Icon